Agencies are immense organizations, so when a change of winds occurs, it can all feel over your head. Transformation efforts are regularly led by the whims of politicos and bigwigs after all, so, many times, you just have to go with the flow.
That is unless you’re a part of the process.
At GovLoop’s virtual summit on May 12, Courtney Winship of the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency spoke about how employees can embed themselves in transformation efforts. USCIS is in the middle of several major transformational projects, one chiefly led by Winship’s office to make the organization more data-driven as it becomes a more digital enterprise.
“When opportunities are offered, get involved,” Winship, the Deputy Chief Data Officer (CDO), said.
Those opportunities come in many shapes and forms, but frequently, they’re right in front of your nose.
Take surveys, Winship said. Contribute your ideas to crowdsourcing campaigns. Or if there’s a working group, sign up for it. In these ways, you can actively be a part of iterative – yet still transformational – change at your agency.
And don’t be afraid to take the baton yourself and run with it.
“If there are ideas that you have, take time out of your day, when you’re able, to draft a little proposal, put a plan together and present it,” Winship said.
When the idea is your own, the first thing you have to do is “find your champion,” Winship said. Track down, engage and involve that one person who will fight for your idea and be able to tote it to decision-makers.
Earlier in her career, Winship developed an onboarding “buddy” program, in which new hires are assigned to a person in the organization who can help them settle in and answer their questions. Buddy programs are just one example. Other ideas encompass mental health task forces or changes to standard operating procedures.
“All of these things really are transformational,” Winship said.
Of course, you have a full-time job to worry about as well, so you can’t always be the harbinger of transformation. More times than not, change will come your way, and not the other way around.
Embracing change starts with having an open mind, Winship said. This is a mental switch – actively deciding to view change with optimism and acceptance instead of perceiving it automatically as an impediment to work.
If you can flip that switch, then you’ll be in the right frame of mind to get involved and practice some of the tips mentioned earlier, including:
- taking surveys.
- joining working groups.
- testing products.
- contributing feedback.
A culture of change
The onus can’t all be on you as an employee, however. Organizations are responsible for making individuals feel they can impact change.
To create a culture of transformation, organizations must create environments where employees can experiment and freely contribute. Cocreation is invaluable, Winship said, so agencies need to open up channels for collaboration.
“It’s OK to fail, first off, and to feel uncomfortable,” Winship said. “Because with discomfort often comes that change.”
Agencies can encourage these spaces by cutting down all meeting times by five minutes, or leaving meeting-free blocks of several hours. During these times, employees can evaluate, collaborate and ideate.
Another tool for success is communicating for the audience, Winship said. Knowing how to communicate a “what’s in it for me” message without “political mumbo jumbo” can get people invested and interested in furthering change.
“Wherever we’ve found success is involving people from the beginning,” Winship said.